The prosecutor-general of Argentina’s Neuquén province, Richard Trincheri, has dismissed a suit by provincial social security and labour minister Luis Manganaro to try to force the daily paper Rio Negro to reveal its sources for a story implying the minister was involved in an embezzlement scandal.
"No judicial or police body can or should carry out investigations that threaten the privacy of journalistic sources," he said in a ruling reported by the paper on 9 September. "The newspaper cannot be sued for false accusations when it has not made any." He said it had simply reprinted the content of a legal complaint that had been filed.
The prosecutor also rejected for lack of evidence the possibility of an enquiry into supposed links between the newspaper and the intelligence services.
20.08.2004 - Provincial government threatens privacy of journalistic sources
Reporters Without Borders today warned the government of Argentina’s Neuquén province that it was threatening democracy by pressing the daily paper Río Negro to reveal its sources for a report it published about alleged embezzlement involving a government minister.
"Confidentiality of journalistic sources is the cornerstone of press freedom," it said in a letter to provincial governor Jorge Sobisch. "Without it, nobody would dare to give sensitive information to journalists. Pressing the paper to reveal its sources is a serious threat to investigative journalism, which is vital for democracy.
"We remind you that Principle 8 of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission’s Declaration on Freedom of Expression says explicitly that every journalist has the right not to reveal sources of information."
The provincial government filed a suit on 6 August asking the paper to disclose its sources for an article two days earlier that reported that public accountants were investigating suspected embezzlement by the Neuquén Provincial Bank while it was headed by the present local minister of social security and labour, Luis Manganaro. The paper said between 500,000 and 700,000 pesos (135,000-190,000 euros) were stolen from a federal funding authority, the AFIP-DGI.
Manganaro called for revelation of the journalists’ sources and investigation of which legal officials may have leaked information to them. The paper’s management has called the minister’s request an "unacceptable attack on press freedom and encroachment on the independence of the judiciary."
The editor of the Neuquén daily La Nación, Hector Mauriño, noted that the case was not an isolated one and was part of long-standing government hostility towards Río Negro. All government bodies in the province cancelled their advertising in Río Negro in January 2003 after it criticised the governor for alleged corruption.